"I think the gay male population is much more visible than the lesbian community, and I don’t know why that is. It’s something I’ve always thought about, but I’m just not sure.”
Caroline K. Lauer ’14 speaks softly and wears her long blonde hair knotted in a ponytail. Lauer is a Peer Advising Fellow and a volunteer at the Phillips Brooks House Association; she holds an on-campus job and made her best friends during a pre-orientation program and over long conversations in Annenberg. She is also in a long-term relationship with another woman.
“I don’t think it’s something Harvard talks about a lot,” says Lauer, in reference to the disparity in the number of gay men and gay women on campus.
Female students who identify as gay, especially those like Lauer who are not involved in specifically queer groups, recount trying and often failing to find other women of their sexual orientation.
“That’s so real, that’s such a real frustration,” says Linda M. Buehler ’14, who identifies as queer.
After she came out during freshman year, Buehler made it her mission to seek out other queer-identifying women in the area to whom she could look for support. “I’m really comfortable because I spent a year finding lesbians all over Massachusetts. I spent an entire year finding lesbians,” she says. “I actually have a book in my room called ‘Finding the Lesbians.’”
At a school where gay men are more easily encountered, addressing the question of where the lesbians are involves engaging in a larger discussion of existing stereotypes about lesbians and the fluidity of female sexuality. Inevitably a dialogue concerning the role of queer-identifying females at Harvard cannot be separated from considerations of any woman’s place on campus.
FINDING A PARTNER
“I guess I feel like if I were a gay guy, I could go home with a different guy every night of the week if I really wanted to, whereas as a lesbian you can’t really do that because you end up going back with the same people,” Maddie O. Studt ’16 says.
Brianna J. Suslovic ’16 and Grace E.G. Huckins ’16 met at an open house for the Office of BGLTQ Student Life at the beginning of the school year and have been happily dating since—but they’re the exception. Huckins, a Crimson Arts comper, recalls a conversation with a friend: “We found it easy to rattle off the men who are openly gay in the Class of 2016, but we could name fewer than 10 women,” she recalls, pausing to consider the significance of her statement. “It’s very stark when you kind of look at it like that.”
Huckins’s inability to name many lesbians in her Harvard class is not uncommon.
“Whenever I go to a queer party I see so many gay men and hardly any lesbians.” says Lindsay, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson because she has yet to come out to her family. According to her estimation, for every 10 gay couples seen on campus, about eight of them are men.
“The markers for being a gay male are very recognized by society,” says Lynne S. Peskoe ’14, who identifies as bisexual and interns at the BGLTQ Office of Student Life.
“Everybody knows about gaydar for men; only queer women know about gaydar for women,” continues Peskoe. “You have a checklist in your head when you meet someone. You’re like, oh, she’s cute: Who are her blockmates? Who does she hang out with? What does she study?”
Peskoe, a junior, has, to a certain extent, figured out a system for identifying signs of lesbians or bisexuals at Harvard. But, for others, finding lesbian women can be a daunting task.